Thursday, November 18, 2010

WRIGLEY FIELD: "The Friendly Confines are now the Cozy Confines"

With the gridiron for Saturday's Illinois-Northwestern game laid out east to west, there are some tight spots that promise to affect play-calling.

"It definitely will be an element in the game," NU coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "We will plan accordingly."

Parts of the east end zone are within spitting distance — don't get any ideas — of the right-field bleachers. The back-middle of the end zone is just a foot from a thickly padded wall.

So get ready for the first Arena football game in Big Ten history.

UPDATE: Billy goats, black cats, Bartman and now the forbidden end zone. With Wrigley Field playing host to its first college football game in 40 years, something wacky was bound to happen. And no, painting the famed Chicago Cubs marquee purple doesn't suffice.

Despite months and months of planning for the Wrigleyville Classic, Big Ten officials announced Friday — less than 36 hours before kickoff — that the schools had agreed to run all offensive plays toward the west end zone because of safety concerns. Turns out, the Friendly Confines were a little too cozy, with the east end zone hugging the brick wall in right field so tightly there wasn't even room for a standard goal post.

No matter if Illinois or Northwestern had the ball, all offensive plays headed toward the third-base dugout Saturday. Kickoffs went the other way and, after the change in possession, referees repositioned the ball so it was pointing west. The only quality time anyone spent at the east end of the field was when Northwestern safety Brian Peters returned an interception 59 yards for a score midway through the first quarter (11-20-11).

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